My Day At the 2011 FedUC

For a variety of reasons, I only spent one day at the FedUC this year. I chose Thursday because that was the day of the DevGeo session, as well as the National Security Session and a SIG in which I was interested. As a result, I did not see the plenary or any of the big-screen demos. With a few meetings crammed in, my day was a whirlwind. What follows is my view of the FedUC but it is by no means comprehensive. To get a more complete picture, I suggest checking out Adena’s updates over at Directions.

#FedUC


I started out in the National Security Session where I saw demos of some mobile apps done for warfighter use and some web-based common operational picture apps targeted at the homeland security community. Perhaps it was the use case that was discussed, combined with my background doing similar work but the Android app, as it was shown, rang a little hollow for me. I thought homeland security demos were on more solid ground. The use cases were familiar, being similar to those shown in previous years, but the tools are now more advanced and the applications more effective. I have worked with most of the tools discussed (ArcGIS Server, the web APIs, geoprocessing tools, etc.) in similar contexts so I thought the technical content was on target. I am a little concerned that multiple agencies seem to be building similar systems under the guise of addressing their own unique requirements. The proliferation of operating pictures and services and such is quickly creating a hydra that may bog down under the weight of its own redundancy. This is not strictly a technology or GIS problem but all of the nice mapping apps put a very visible face on the issue of lack of coordination.

My next stop was the DevGeo session. Because of overlap with the National Security session, I missed the first part on the iOS API but arrived in time for discussion of the Microsoft APIs. The session was technically an all-day thing but I like the way Jim Barry and team broke it up by technology (with specific time slots for each). This made it easy to drop in for the APIs which interested you but also cut out for other sessions during times when other APIs were being discussed.

Before I get too far into the meat of the DevGeo, I want to point out that this is a case where Esri listened to feedback regarding the FedUC. Back in the fall, I suggested to John Steffenson that some flavor of the DevGeo session they did in Silicon Valley would be a great thing to add to the FedUC. Much to my surprise, John took the idea forward and it happened. I think the addition of DevGeo, which is much more technically focused than the FedUC content tends to normally be, was a good way to round out the conference.

Jim Barry also told me that they are planning five more dev meetups in the DC area in 2011. I’m not sure about other regions, but developers in this area tend to spend a lot of time in cubicles in windowless rooms behind cipher locks so I think these meetups are a good way to foster more collaboration. I know I won’t make all five but I’ll hit what I can.

This guy could stand to get out more.

As for the session itself, I saw the various Microsoft APIs and then also the Android API. I work a lot with the Silverlight API so I’m familiar with it but I did see the Sharepoint tools. It’s no secret that I’m not a Sharepoint fan but Esri has done a lot of work to provide web parts that make it pretty easy to insert maps and GIS tools without a lot of code. These parts seem to be targeted at Sharepoint administrators and they make it very easy to map data contained in Sharepoint lists and such. I think Esri succeeded in creating tools that integrate well with workflows with which a Sharepoint administrator is comfortable.

Another interesting thing is the upcoming Silverlight App Builder. This is a wizard-like tool that allows you to build a baseline application framework by choosing a basemap, components such as the navigator, various toolbars and tools, behaviors, actions and the like. What it does is roll up a lot of the tools that the Silverlight API team has been putting out for a while now so you can pick what you want to start with for your application.

I have not actually touched the app builder yet but it seems to create a baseline solution which will build a functioning app with the components you chose. From there, you can deploy the app as-is or begin extending it with your own code. To be perfectly honest, it’s probably not something I would use (out of personal preference, not a commentary on the app builder) but I can see its value. I have worked in settings where developers start a Silverlight API app by taking the Silverlight Showcase and stripping out what they don’t need. That’s a good way to create a mess and I think the app builder provides the opportunity for building a cleaner baseline by adding in only what you do need. It’s supposed to be in beta by the the time of the Dev Summit.

The Windows Phone API looked as effective as any other API. Esri is getting pretty good at turning out APIs for various platforms now so it’s no surprise that they are on top of Windows Phone. Really, I have nothing to say about the API itself as I was fascinated by the room as the topic transitioned to Windows Phone. The room was filled to capacity (between 150 and 200 people) and only one person had a Windows Phone. As the discussion of the API progressed, people started to leave. I found the lack of interest in the platform almost palpable.

From there, I went to lunch and ditched my backpack. I never once opened my laptop but had my iPad all day. Tablets rule. The days of the laptop are numbered.

I took a swing through the exhibit hall to specifically catch up with the Brian and Jack Flood of Arc2Earth and also Brian and Ryan at VoyagerGIS. Arc2Earth is really expanding its cloud support. Upcoming changes are going to greatly simplify pushing data to Google AppEngine. The current version of Arc2Earth Cloud Services is a little cumbersome in that regard and they have been working on streamlining the process. Additionally, they are adding support for the full range of Google geospatial services, including Fusion Tables. This will bring these services right into ArcMap where they can augment existing workflows and data sources. (Disclaimer: My company is an Arc2Earth reseller.)

Arc2Cloud

I hadn’t really seen VoyagerGIS since GIS in the Rockies but they continue to expand their product. At first glance, it looks like a search tool (which it is) but I’ve always been more impressed by the insights it can give you into your own data use. One of the earliest features that impressed me was the ability to easily identify duplicate data sets, not only by content but by schema (structure). These two things alone can go a long way to helping reduce data redundancy. Additionally the tool indexes ArcMap documents. With this information, you can begin to get insight into what data sets are actually being used in your organization. Basically, the act of indexing your data for search provides the potential for a lot more insight. VoyagerGIS seems to have really hooked into this concept. But don’t take my word for it, download it and try it.

After that, I sat in on a SIG related to infrastructure protection. It gave me a lot of flashbacks and I could probably write an entire (very boring) post on just that. Let’s just say there needs to be a lot more thought put into understanding infrastructure interdependence and that federal efforts to engage states on this issue still have a long way to go.

I then swung back through DevGeo for the Android API before my brain was full and my feet hurt. In general, DevGeo was pretty high-level. I would call it a topical overview of the various developer tools provided by Esri but seeing some live demos (Of code…yes, I am a geek because I’d rather see live coding than a PowerPoint any day.) and being able ask some questions is much more valuable than browsing the resource center (at least for me).

I did not go to the Esri shindig at the Natural History Museum as I instead went to the #geoglobaldomination at RFD. Quite a few people from the DC geo scene were there (such as a large crew from FortiusOne). One of the great things about Esri’s conferences is that they act as something of a center of gravity for geo types of all stripes. So there was a great mingling of ideas and catching up with some people that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then, it was time to head for home.

So that closes the books for me on this year’s FedUC. Due to scheduling, this will be the only one of the big Esri conferences I’ll hit this year so I’ll be looking for another backchannel from the DTS guys to keep up with the Dev Summit and the International User Conference. 🙂

  • Good info Bill! Thanks for sharing! Too bad you can’t make the DevSummit – the party will be bigger and better than ever!

    I totally agree on the death of laptops – or at least the emergence of tablets as your “main” mobile device. We’re really starting to focus on building apps that transition from desktop browser to tablet to phone, so you have *some* kind of experience on all 3 (javascript is badass, but there is still some stuff you can only do in RIAs for now)

    We’re gonna *try* to get the backchannel re-tooled (twitter or facebook auth instead of yet-another-account) along with some other goodies and better photo/video integration… but we’ll see – lots of real work going on too!

    Cheers,

    Dave

    • Dave,

      Thanks!

      Yeah, the timing of the DevSummit every is a little weird for me. It’s a tough time of year to get away.

      I like the way you approach the apps. It’s like a step-down from desktop through tablet to phone. And, yes, it’s still hard to address all three with a single technology set. Hopefully that gets better.

      Real work!? You mean I’m gonna have to do some IRC thing? 😉

      Best,

      Bill

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention My Day At the 2011 FedUC « geoMusings -- Topsy.com()

  • Bill,
    Thanks for the insight into your day at the FedUC, I swear one of these years I actually intend to make it down there for one of these.
    I was curious if you think the Sliverlight App Builder might be Esri Silverlight version to the viewer for Flex. That is a tool to let non or less proficient programmers put out some basic yet functional web apps. I wondered with the deprecation of the web ADF if we wouldn’t tools and tool sets for the other API’s that allow users with little or no programming background crank out decent looking web apps with minimal effort.
    Thanks for the kudos on my NJGF achievement.

    • Now, as NJGF Executive Committee chair, you need to come down and school the Feds on how to better collaborate with state and local governments on GIS data sharing, infrastructure protection and the like. 🙂

      Actually, Esri they have something similar to a Silverlight version of the Flex Viewer already but, yes, I think the app builder could fill that need – perhaps even more effectively. And, yes, Esri does seem to be work on tools to make it easier to put out basic mapping apps with very little coding.

      I’d be happy to make a run to Brick to talk about it.